White House Orders “Tech Surge” to Fix Obamacare Website

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Oct. 20 2013 6:07 PM

White House Orders “Tech Surge” to Fix Obamacare Website

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A woman looks at the HealthCare.gov insurance exchange website

Photo by KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

The Obama administration is admitting it has a problem and has called “the best and the brightest” tech experts from the private and public sector to fix the website to the online health insurance marketplace that has been plagued by glitches since it was launched almost three weeks ago. “We’re kind of thinking of it as a tech ‘surge,’” a Health and Human Services Department official tells Politico.

In a blog post published Sunday, the HHS for the first time is urging Americans to try out the website and report back on their experiences: 

Unfortunately, the experience on HealthCare.gov has been frustrating for many Americans. Some have had trouble creating accounts and logging in to the site, while others have received confusing error messages, or had to wait for slow page loads or forms that failed to respond in a timely fashion. The initial consumer experience of HealthCare.gov has not lived up to the expectations of the American people. We are committed to doing better.
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The Washington Post notes that Sunday’s blog post seems to be part of a “strategic shift for an administration that has been slow to say publicly exactly what is going wrong with the exchange ... or exactly what is being done to fix it.”

Even though there are still many unanswered questions, such as when this work by the “best and the brightest” began and when problems are expected to be resolved, it still amounts to the most detailed acknowledgement and explanation that the health insurance marketplace isn’t quite working as planned. 

The HHS blog post was published after Treasury Secretary Jack Lew told NBC’s Meet the Press that the president isn’t happy about how his signature health care program has rolled out. “I think that there's no one more frustrated than the president at the difficulty in the website,” Lew said. Late Saturday, the White House said nearly 500,000 Americans had applied for health insurance through the exchanges. But that number still left a lot unsaid, as Politico pointed out, noting that the administration will likely wait until next month to release the number of people who have actually enrolled in a plan. 

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.